Evangelicals in the Church of England have expressed concern about the apparent contradiction at the heart of proposals announced this week to allow prayers and blessings for same-sex couples.
The Prayers of Love and Faith, to be debated at next month’s General Synod, have been met with alarm by evangelicals who see them as a stepping stone to doctrinal change on marriage.
Helen Lamb, a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) Working Group, took part in a debate hosted by the Religion Media Centre this week where she described the proposals as “extraordinary” and said it was likely that they would end up “pleasing absolutely nobody”.
“We are being told on the one hand marriage is between one man and one woman and that is the doctrine, and on the other hand to bless and say that something is holy that God, in his word, says is not. I don’t see how both of those things can happen,” she said.
John Dunnett, also of the Church of England Evangelical Council, told Church Times that the proposals “amount to a ‘Trojan horse’ for doctrinal change”.
Church Society Director Lee Gatiss said, “We cannot apologise for following Christ and proclaiming his word, as if that was not somehow the best way for us all to live.”
He continued, “How can we promote and bless and celebrate and give thanks for things which God has not blessed?
“It is simply not good enough to throw 1 John 4:16 into this debate like a grenade and think that ‘God is love and those who abide in love abide in God’ is sufficient to establish that he approves of same-sex marriage relationships.”
He added, “It is sleight of hand at best and a downright lie at worst to claim that allowing for the blessing of same-sex marriage relationships in church is not a change in the Church’s doctrine of marriage.”
Susie Leafe, Director of Anglican Futures, said the proposals have left faithful Anglicans facing an “uncertain” future.
She expects to see more enquiries to her organisation, which offers practical and pastoral support to orthodox Anglicans.
“The idea that celebrating ‘equal civil marriage’ will not undermine ‘Holy Matrimony’ is laughable,” she said.
Further afield, GAFCON Chair, Foley Beach, said he had received news of the proposals “with a heavy heart”.
“Once again, our Western Anglican Provinces continue to ‘go their own way’ on matters of faith and practice without consultation or concern for the majority of Anglicans around the Global Communion,” he said.
“Their actions not only deny holy practice, but reject the authority of Scripture, the teaching of the historic church, and the consensus of the Body of Christ from every tribe, tongue, people and nation alive today.”